We may feel like the world is ending during a divorce, but for a child, it’s as if their world has exploded. While you can get help to put the pieces of your life back together, your children are feeling fractured and torn between two parents.
Director Evgeny Afineevsky's brilliant and compassionate documentary, ‘Divorce: A Journey Through the Kids' Eyes’ explores the feelings of children who have been affected by divorce. Evgeny interviewed over 60 children for the film. This is a movie that parents should watch and make available to their children.
Evgeny’s production company, New Generation Films is located in Hollywood, California. The Russian born independent filmmaker and his team have produced some critically acclaimed and unique movies such as one of their latest family comedy releases ‘Oy Vey! My Son is Gay!’, a modern romance with a message of acceptance, tolerance and love.
Evgeny creates that bond with the audience again, only this time he is helping heal the hearts of children and showing parents how the kids really feel about their divorce.
First Wives World had the pleasure of speaking with Evgeny about the process of making the movie. He was kind enough to share what he learned from the kids and he gives us a preview of what you can expect when this important film is released.
What gave you the inspiration to make this movie?
Evgeny: Last year I was traveling, working on some of my previous projects on distribution. In Altanta Marietta, I was surrounded all of a sudden with two or three families that were falling apart, they were going through divorces. Their divorces were all kind of different; one was a fairy tale divorce where the mother and the father just separated. They were still kind of best friends and the kids weren’t involved in any arguments. It was kind of a peaceful, nice human divorce.
At the same time, there was a mother who was fighting with the father who was abusive. The family even left the house until the court kicked the father from the home. He was so bad, that he broke one of the musical instruments of the kids. The kids didn’t want to be in touch with the father.
The third divorce – she was actually the attorney who was handling all these divorces and she was going through her own divorce. She told me that yes, she had issues with her husband, but she was still kind of in communication with him. It wasn’t that good, but not that bad; somewhere in the middle. All three divorces were in front of me and I was around kids.
The year before, I was at an event with Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams. Steven was talking about working with the kids on the E.T. movie and J.J. Abrams was talking about working with the kids on “SUPER 8”, that he was about to release. It gave me a lot of inspiration and I was looking for something to start to do with kids in my moviemaking field. Never the less, I am also a child of divorce and know how it hurts when parents are separating. All of a sudden, I thought this is an interesting subject to work with the kids, to try to get to know them better, to understand how they operate in this situation.
At the same time, my directing skills can help me to unlock everything that is locked inside because when you enter the room with a child, you are a complete stranger. (I interviewed over 60 kids across the country) They need to find trust in you in order to get to the emotions that are locked in and tell you all the story.
So here, I found my challenge as a director, but at the same time, I wanted to find something that could help other kids. I found a lot of kids, as they are going through these horrible divorces, they are lost – their school grades dropped, they lost focus. It’s not just parents who are going through divorce, it’s also children who are going through the divorce process with them. Parents need always to remember that!
I went to some of the schools where these kids study and I heard from the teachers that some of these kids are just coming to the teachers and asking what to do, because they are lost! I also spoke with some school counsellors. They said that they are using group therapy, so some of the kids who went through this can share their experience with others who just entering this “divorce zone”. A lot of times, kids who went through divorce and have already found their way back, they are sharing their thoughts and experiences with the ones who are just starting.
I realized that there is something that needs to be done from my perspective as a filmmaker that can help kids tell their own stories because they see and hear everything. If parents are so naïve that they think kids don’t observe every small detail, they are wrong. Kids understand more than parents think.
At the end of the day, I am a child of divorce. My mother divorced my father when I was less than one year old and my step-dad when I was 16. I think in every child, it doesn’t matter the age, divorce exists, it’s just covered by the layers of happy memories that came after divorce, when the life came back to normal. Still, the divorce experience exists and in different kinds of situations this can come out. I saw it often.
This brought me to the idea that I needed to investigate kids who are going through divorce, who went through divorce, who already found something through divorce, and create a tool that can be used for the priority of the kids and then for the parents. This is a unique tool that can keep the attention of the kids and explain what can happen during divorce; what is right, what is wrong, and what is the way to find happiness again.
I don’t try to portray divorce as a disaster. It is a situation that happens and is meant to be. If two grownups weren’t able to be under the same roof in peace, divorce needs to happen. If there is no key that resolve this, divorce needs to happen. In the movie, I try to portray this in a positive way, but we are making a big accent that the parents need to keep kids in the loop – a peaceful loop.
Keep aggravation out of them. If parents want to fight, don’t fight in front of the kids. Don’t pass any nasty stuff or ugly stuff through the kids. I met situations where parents, because they were fighting and not talking, were passing all the stuff through the kids. The kids were damaged much stronger after the divorce. I met two boys, where the divorce was five years ago and one was eight-years-old and another 15-years-old, but their situation now is worse than when the divorce happened. The parents aren’t talking, they are fighting. Mother is trashing father in front of them and father is trashing mother in front of them. They are passing nasty messages through the kids. And this is unacceptable! This making more and more damage to the kids pure soul.
Photo Courtesy of Evgeny Afineevsky "Giving Children a Voice"
This happens a lot. We know we shouldn’t do it, but bitter people lose control and it is so wrong.
Evgeny: It is wrong, and we put the accent on these things because if you care about kids, these things should never happen. When both parents are locked in their own anger, they forget that its can effect very badly their kids! As we point out in the movie, parents need to keep kids in the loop. The east coast and west coast of the United States are a little bit different. On the east coast, in the small cities, you can see that the parents, particularly moms are sitting with their kids and explaining that, hey, me and your dad aren’t able to be together. We actually observed a lot of families where the parents tried to explain that they are separating and that the kids are still loved by the parents and it’s not a kids fault that parents divorcing!
Some families here on the west coast, in California where the wealth exists there are parents who are starting to fight about money, about child support and alimony, about property and houses and all kinds of stuff. What is happening is that kids who hear “money, money, money” are developing a particular situation in their mind that they are the reason of divorce. Since parents are fighting about money that spends on the or for the kids, what comes to the minds of the little ones is that they are the reason because parents need to support us, parents need money for us and this is why they are fighting.
Parents need to communicate. It’s not separation of the male and the female; it’s separation of the family. So its means everybody goes through divorce: both parents and the kids.
I interviewed an art therapist, Drena Fagen of New York Creative Arts Therapists she also talked about how kids handle divorce and how you should help them express their feelings. Drena helps kids express their feelings through art. I see that you use a lot of children’s artwork in your movie.
Evgeny: Our entire movie is covered by kids’ artwork. The whole movie has the drawings of the kids or when the kid is talking, one of the kids in the frame will be drawing what the kid is talking about.
That s how kids express themselves. Drena also told me that kids don’t feel that they have anyone to talk to during divorce, so it was wonderful that you got them to trust you and open up about their feelings.
Evgeny: The professional idea of the director is to challenge myself to find a key to every soul. Being a director, you need to unlock the person, unlock the professional actor’s ability, and create from him character, that you see in the movie. Here, I was dealing with little ones who have something already inside and I wanted to unlock this door so that they could express themselves, so that they could bring out all the pain to an unknown person and share it through the camera lens with millions of other in need people
Every time, I was trying not only to find the pain, but the solution to their pain. In the beginning, I was just getting the information. I think after about 15 interviews, I was kind of sharing with them information that I had received from other kids. And every time, I was finishing the interview, I was asking the kids how they were feeling. Most of the kids were 99.99 percent of the time feeling much better because they were sharing what they wanted to bring to other kids. All of them knew about the movie and how they were contributing to other kids who need this, so for each and every child it was not only expressing their story, they were helping others.
I became kind of their therapist by sharing what I heard from other kids depending on the situation, trying to give them a solution. It was also helping them because I heard from kids how they used different tactics, strategies, and different tools. For example, how they were fighting their depression or fighting the memories that they had when their parents were together.
I was watching some of the clips from the movie, and they were so touching. The one with the little boy where he is describing his parents as a circle and a square - I wanted to cry and I just hug him.
Evgeny: Well, wait until you see the movie. It’s amazing how kids know how to understand the situation sometimes, and how interesting is the way that they put it in their perspective. Circle and square – I think it is a genius thing to explain to any child the situation between parents. How basically in an easy way it can be explained to a child the difference between two human beings from being in a love situation to becoming too different from each other. These differences make them aggravate each other and so they need to separate.
You don’t want to try to explain it on a high level, like a psychiatrist. It’s just simple, like a circle and square. I was amazed when he was telling it to us. Actually, in the movie we have it animated, so you’ll see him talking about that and we’ll have an animated mother who is all circles and the father is all squares. You’ll see them together, then fighting, then how they separate.
Image Courtesy of Evgeny Afineevsky
It’s wonderful that you could accomplish all that. When do you think the movie will be released?
Evgeny: Right now, we are mixing music and doing the color correction and the movie will be done. I believe that by the end of next week it will be done.
I was looking at your website for New Generation Films. You’ve made some inspiring movies that brought light to a number of social issues.
Evgeny: Toronto International Film Festival was waiting for me to get the divorce movie to them because Cameron Bailey wrote me a letter, but unfortunately, when you are working with the kids it was taking a much longer time. I had the team of the kids around me, I didn’t use only professionals in the movie. I wanted kids to draw things, draw the poster and write some music. I wanted kids who went through divorce to put some of their feelings inside of creative process too.
All the movie has music, all 54 minutes. All of the movie has drawings -- real time drawings that the kids are making while they are talking or they did before the movie during the process of divorce or especially for the movie. It’s entirely covered by the music and drawings that resembling the story.
I got an email at the beginning of the process from a single father raising his kids. He wrote a song and he sent it to us from Canada, he lives near Toronto. Actually very talented and very amazing person whose name I would love to share also with the readers, his name is John MacDougall. I told him that we wanted not only the father’s perspective on the love of his child, but also the mother’s perspective. He rewrote the song and now at the end of the movie we have a song about a mother and a father who love their child and are sharing their custody every second week. The child is with them and dreaming that they will still be together.
We recorded the male vocal of the song in Canada and we recorded the female vocal here in the United States with an amazing Conchita Leeflang. She is a friend of Elton John, she’s a European TV personality and celebrity, an amazing singer and she is also raising her child as a single mother.
It sounds amazing! This is such an important movie that parents and children should see.
Evgeny: Kids don’t know who to consult. The adults have all kinds of hotlines they can call, or people with money can buy a psychologist’s help, but kids don’t have this. If adults don’t pay attention to these kids, they are left alone in this battlefield. The only way to do it is to have something like this. Nowadays, kids have the Internet, they have iPads, so if this movie can be accessible to the kids, they have the ability to listen to other kids and understand that, yes shit happens. This is not because of them and there are other kids who are going through this.
How can we see this movie?
Evgeny: I’m talking to six or seven different distributors who have access to iTunes or all kinds of online sites. Already, I got a call from Showtime that they would love to see the movie. I think kids will watch this on their iPads or their computers because they will want to see it in their private time away from the parents.
We also have one of our doctors monitoring our website. There is a live chat where any child or any parent can write. Dr. Harel Papikian is a licensed Clinical Psychologist the state of California. He will answer any questions on our website.
Thank you, Evgeny! This is such important work and we can’t wait to see the film.
Are you searching for a way to help your children cope with their emotions? Please share your stories in the comment box below.